Populism as a Spectre of Democracy

Benjamin Arditi

in Politics on the Edges of Liberalism

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print January 2007 | ISBN: 9780748625116
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652778 | DOI:
Populism as a Spectre of Democracy

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This chapter develops the link between populism and democracy through a friendly polemic with Canovan's recent take on populism. The traditional literature on populism depicts the phenomenon as an alternative to the standard path from traditional to modern society, as a way to enfranchise the underclass, and as a politics centred on the role played by charismatic leaders who act as undisputed brokers hand in hand with class politics and liberal institutions. The argument draws from Oakeshott's claim that political modernity is characterised by the interplay of two distinct styles: the politics of faith and of scepticism. It renames them as the redemptive and pragmatic faces of democracy, and suggests that populism arises in the gap between them. This establishes a relation of interiority between populism and democracy.

Keywords: Canovan's populism; democracy; political modernity; scepticism

Chapter.  4929 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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